After a grueling two-year legal battle and Eviction Defense support campaign, Lela Whitfield’s fight for her home was down to the wire — Fannie Mae asked the court for an eviction order in November 2015.
But Fannie Mae’s request struck Judge Cylenthia LaToye Miller as so unreasonable that she delayed signing the writ for 30 days to “see if we can’t work something out so that [Lela] stays in her home and Fannie Mae doesn’t have another vacant property in Detroit.”
The Judge recognized the people in the courtroom supporting Lela, and two reporters were taking notes.
“Whitfield’s problem began in 2005, when her mother fell prey to one of the mortgage industry’s most notorious types of loan — the reverse mortgage…” Go to Free Press Article here.
When Lela’s Mom died, Lela didn’t realized her mom had taken out a reverse mortgage. By the time she found out about it and that she had the right to buy the home, Fannie Mae had taken over the mortgage and moved to instead evict her. Fannie Mae spent huge amounts of taxpayers’ money to try to throw a hard-working woman out of a home appraised at just $9000.
On September 13, 2015 DED organized, with neighbors — particularly the Feedom Freedom Farm across the street — a free concert attended by 150 supporters. Featuring local musicians, it was held in a lot just up the street from Whitfield’s home. The music ranged from neighborhood rap to blues to classical, gospel and much more. People came not just to be entertained but also to show solidarity with Lela Whitfield, a woman who was determined to save her home.
Victory at last – in battle that never should have happened
That launched months of tough negotiations and in March 2016, Lela finally won her right to buy back the home she grew up in at market value. Eviction Defense had mobilized support, including a community concert.
Go to Free Press article and video here.
It had been sold in tax auction for one-tenth what they put into it
Daryl and Lula Burke had lost their home in 2014 tax auctions. They turned to Detroit Eviction Defense for support and won the right to buy back their home at a fair price.
The Burkes are lifelong Detroiters, and Daryl is a Vietnam veteran. In early 2014, shortly after falling into a coma and being stuck with a huge medical bill, Daryl had his Veteran Affairs pension check cut in half.
The Burkes got a foreclosure notice, but Veteran Affairs assured him they would take care of the back taxes.
They didn’t. On Christmas Eve, 2014, a representative from an investment corp. showed up at their home and told them that the company had bought their home for $5,500 in the auction – about a tenth of the money they’d put into the home. Under pressure, the company sold them back the home.
On January 21, 2015, the Ferndale Housing Commission voted to CHANGE THEIR POLICY which stated they wouldn’t give a housing voucher to anyone attempting to rent a home with a boarded-up house within three blocks. This effectively removed Detroit as a housing option, and prevented people who want to live in Detroit from doing so.
They also returned housing vouchers to Ms. Charmonique Hopkins and to Ms. Teresa Benton and made Ms. Hopkins “whole” by paying her back rent and utility bills. This means Ms. Hopkins and her family will remain in their home near Livernois and Fenkell. It means Ms. Benton and her family can return to the home they had been forced to vacate on Prevost in Detroit. This is an important victory for these women and for the broader community.
This victory was won due to the efforts of both Ms. Hopkins and Ms. Benton and the solidarity and direct action of Detroit Eviction Defense and Detroit Tenant Defense. Both spoke eloquently about the struggles they went through, including stress and homelessness, and the impact on their families caused by the racist actions of Ferndale Housing Commission.
See Oakland County 115 write-up on the victory here.
Detroit’s Grandmont-Rosedale neighborhood offers key support
Jennifer had paid $46,000 to save a Rosedale Park-Detroit home that’s worth $25,000; 100 people held dawn-to-dusk vigil for two months to prevent eviction. Detroit Eviction Defense organized house-to-house leafleting of the neighborhood, informing them of Jennifer’s problem and inviting them to call the bank.
The committee also picketed, with UAW Local 600, at both Flagstar Bank, the holder of her mortgage, and at Fannie Mae, who backed it.
As the eviction order was issued, DED invited neighbors to participate in the 12-hour vigil. DED also held weekly meetings on Jennifer’s lawn.
As the vigil began July 19, 2012 Jennifer told her story (below) to a WWJ reporter, who found bank’s actions “unbelievable.”
Read the article and watch the Huffington Post story & video.
After the two-month vigil, Fannie Mae finally agreed to work out an agreement to sell Ms. Britt her home — a home she and her family live in today.